ALBANY – Louis Ciminelli, the Buffalo developer accused of bid rigging in a federal corruption case rocking the state, suffers from a “significant medical condition” that requires months of treatment, according to court documents unsealed and un-redacted Friday.
The specific diagnosis was not disclosed in batches of documents filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District in Manhattan. However, the documents show that Ciminelli has been to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and was expecting to be treated in Buffalo as well as at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix. Ciminelli has a second home in Arizona.
The medical condition was first brought to U.S. District Court Judge Valerie Caproni’s attention in a conference call soon after Ciminelli’s treatment began during the week of Jan. 23. The condition was among the reasons the businessman’s lawyers argued to delay the start of the trial until later this year. It also is among several reasons – a “compelling” one, according to one document – that Ciminelli’s lawyers cited in their bid to shift the trial from a lower Manhattan courthouse to Buffalo.
Ciminelli, the former head of LPCiminelli, was charged last fall in a corruption case involving allegations of bid rigging, pay-to-play and bribery. Ciminelli, along with two other former LPCiminelli executives, was charged with helping to rig the bidding process for contracting work involving the Buffalo Billion program, including construction of the state-funded SolarCity project at RiverBend.
Defense lawyers have been trying to get the case against Ciminelli and the other Buffalo defendants moved to Buffalo.
In their papers submitted last week, federal prosecutors said they now support splitting the corruption case in two: one involving accusations of bid rigging related to upstate projects and the other focused on bribery allegations centering around Joseph Percoco, a longtime friend and adviser to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
All of the defendants maintain they broke no laws.
Ciminelli’s health was first raised January 31, when one of his Manhattan-based lawyers wrote to the judge, asking for a teleconference to provide her with information about “a significant medical condition of Mr. Ciminelli’s that was recently diagnosed." That call happened two days later.
In a sealed declaration that Ciminelli’s Buffalo lawyer, Daniel C. Oliverio, filed Feb. 6, the Buffalo executive was said to have begun experiencing something that was kept sealed but described as “intense.’’
He consulted with his physicians in Buffalo and then had a later diagnosis at DENT Neurological Institute in Buffalo. He then traveled to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. His treatments have included pills, weekly injections and infusions, and other undisclosed treatments. Oliverio originally wrote the judge that treatment would last four months, including three weeks in a hospital, and a minimum of three months of recovery – if the initial treatments were successful.
In one document, his physician in Arizona suggested that Ciminelli either be at home in Buffalo or his second home in Phoenix so he can be close to his treating physicians in the two locations.
Ciminelli’s lawyer asked that the information about the businessman’s health be kept sealed so as not to invade the privacy of Ciminelli or his family. Additionally, there were concerns about the impact of the news on Ciminelli’s business interests.
The judge is still weighing whether the corruption cases will be split into more than one trial and if there will be separate trials in Buffalo and Manhattan. If there is a separate Buffalo trial, she has indicated that it will start Oct. 30.
Prosecutors last week laid out their objections to defense lawyers’ attempt to get the cases dismissed or to move the trial of some of the defendants to Buffalo. Defense lawyers now have a July 20 deadline to respond to the judge.
In early April, Oliverio asked for a trial to start in late November, in part, because Ciminelli was in the midst of initial treatment for his condition – a treatment plan that was not expected to end until May 2018. The defense lawyer said Ciminelli would not be able to “meaningfully assist” in the preparation for his defense until this October.
Last month, Oliverio wrote the judge that Ciminelli planned to notify his company’s employees June 5 about his medical problem. He emphasized, in the letter unsealed Friday, that there would be no public announcement and “there is no desire that this information become public.’’
The following week, Oliverio wrote the judge, informing her that Ciminelli has no objection to unsealing information that he has a health condition, but asked that information about his diagnosis, condition, treatment and outlook remain private. Such information is “confidential, medically protected, sensitive and personal information for which continued sealing is appropriate," the lawyer wrote.
The judge, in a June 28 order, noted that Ciminelli originally wanted the health information sealed “because he was concerned that his company would suffer and that it would be difficult for the company’s employees."
With Ciminelli notifying his employees in early June, the judge ordered many of the previously redacted or sealed documents – except information about his specific condition – to be released no later than July 7.
Ciminelli, along with Michael Laipple and Kevin Schuler, the other two company executives charged in the corruption case, in mid-January formally stepped down from their roles at LPCiminelli. A month later, court documents revealed claims that bad publicity about the investigation and subsequent criminal charges against the three men had cost the general contracting company nearly $4 billion worth of "work and inventory" over an 18-month period.
The documents popped into a federal court document tracking system midafternoon Friday.
Oliverio on Friday would not confirm the nature of his client's illness, other than to label it "serious."
"Clearly from the court papers, Mr. Ciminelli is battling a serious illness that has been ongoing for a number of months," Oliverio said. "Though we're hopeful about his prognosis, we have asked for a postponement to ensure that his initial round of treatment will make him strong enough to see this case through to the end."
"We're confident and hopeful," he added.